ABO EL-MATY of the Salafist Al-Nour Party 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The head of Egypt’s leading Salafi movement said Tuesday the party would respect
Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
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Representatives of the party
quickly backtracked, however, saying the matter was still being looked
“Treaties Egypt has signed must be upheld – we intend to respect
them,” Nour party chairman Emad Abdel Ghaffour told a press conference in Cairo,
adding though that Israel has not implemented certain clauses in the agreement
regarding the Palestinians.
These include “a solution to the Palestinian
issue, their right to self-determination, self-governance and the creation of a
Palestinian state on Palestinian land,” Abdel Ghaffour said.
several clauses that must be enacted in order for the Palestinians to feel they
have gained from the peace process.”
Ghaffour – a physician from the
Islamist stronghold of Alexandria – said his party would consider making
“changes” to the peace treaty, but did not elaborate. Many Egyptians hope to see
the downgrading or elimination of troop deployment limitations in the Sinai
Peninsula and the natural gas deal between the two countries.
represent a fundamentalist religious stream that seeks to create an Islamic
state according to strict social codes and a legal system based entirely on
Islamic law. The various Salafi parties have thus far been the biggest surprise
of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, taking about 30 percent of votes to
place second after the Muslim Brotherhood which garnered around 40%.
Brotherhood, hardline but more pragmatic Islamists, has been cagey about its own
views on relations with Israel.
The movement has said it would respect
all of Egypt’s international obligations – implicitly including its treaty with
the Jewish state – but on other occasions has insisted it would not engage in
direct diplomatic negotiations with Jerusalem.
The Brotherhood has
striven to show the outside world it follows a “moderate” brand of Islamism, and
that its foremost priorities are not religious but nurturing Egypt’s nascent
democracy and tailspinning economy.
The Salafis, improvising their public
relations after decades underground and an unexpected election windfall, may be
trying to do the same.
In an ironic turn Tuesday, a Salafi spokesman
chastised the Brotherhood for being “unrealistic” in refusing to negotiate with
Israel, and said the Nour party’s executive council was still deliberating
whether to “engage in dialogue with Israeli diplomats.”
told a Kuwaiti newspaper there was nothing preventing Egypt from engaging in
dialogue with Israel, and that such talks would be held transparently, under the
supervision of the Foreign Ministry.
“We will not allow any secret
negotiations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israel’s new ambassador to Egypt said
he “needed to learn more” about the electoral results when asked by Egyptian
journalists whether he was concerned by Islamists’ strong showing at the
Yaakov Amitai, who entered the position just a week ago, said he
does not intend to intervene in Egypt’s internal politics.
Amitai heads a
small delegation at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, which three months ago was
ransacked by rioters who tore down its security wall. The assault followed the
fatal shooting of six Egyptian troops by IDF forces pursuing gunmen
who had crossed into Sinai after killing eight Israelis in a terrorist
A top Israeli diplomat said Tuesday the ambassador would try to
open channels of communication between Israel and Islamist groups.
should make every effort to explain we are not the enemies of the Egyptian
people or of the Palestinians,” he said.
“The Palestinians cannot
continue to hold the Arab world by the tail.”